EDIT: Nothing is happening here because I re-read 'the Corrections', then read Don DeLillo's first novel 'Americana'. Now I'm re-reading 'Americana'. It's fascinating...almost talismanic. DeLillo's writing is so straightforward and simple and yet epic. Its meanings are as infinite as your imagination can make them... (except when DeLillo starts ranting about how technology's 'storms of passion and static' have made us all dumb. That's just classic DeLillo technoparanoia).
It's probably rare these days to compare some rusty 1971 debut novel favourably to Franzen's more recent masterpiece (at least, the one that stands in this place until his newest opus arrives forthwith), but I came across it, on a bookshelf otherwise rammed full of socialist tracts and grim postmodern theory, at just the right time, and that's what made the difference. It suits my itchy, dissatisfied soul; it suits the music i'm listening to, the places that pull me. It resonates on a far deeper level. 'The Corrections' made me both laugh and cry a lot. It seemed to lay out exactly what was going on in reality, and that was great. Addictive enough for 500+ pages. But when it was over, I was happy to leave its characters there in freeze-frame. I didn't have any burning questions about 'em. They didn't stay with me. They were brilliantly depicted but by the end, 'The Corrections' is overexposure. I couldn't stand another thought of the Lamberts. Their reality had closed in on me enough, I felt I knew every corner of it, and that it wasn't taking me anywhere other than a brilliantly expert vision of conventional tragicomic catharsis.
And so, to the Jodorowskian 'Americana'. The reality you can slip into whilst reading one novel might be truthful and accurate for someone else, and beautifully rendered, so you can temporarily inhabit it enough to care about it tremendously - but it's not going to last, because it's several shades away from what you understand is what is invisibly going on; your own deeper reality. Then you come across a novel - or music - that articulates it better; one that tells you far more, more subtly, about those things you weren't conscious of but knew you were looking for. 'Americana' is that novel, at least right now. It's a rare novel that I put down and there's no music I can find to listen to that can possibly reach the place the novel has taken me.
(to be continued....if I have the time - with high falutin' references to Mario Vargas Llosa's wonderful 'Letters to a Young Novelist')...